mesmerism! presidential assassinations! circuses on fire!
Caris smash. Caris LeVert came to Michigan after a high school career spent as a mizzenmast. I'm saying he's thin, people. That's the joke. Or at least he was thin. This year's edition of Michigan basketball player is all swole now:
Yes yes, Irvin and Walton are also adding weight (Irvin's up to 215 from 200) but I be like dang Caris. Let's check in with his senior year of high school…
…during which he probably ripped off and reattached his arms nightly. Caris is also a legit 6'7" in shoes, so he is tall and large and is hopefully poised to rip it up this fall.
Freshman dimensions. Basketball has posted a roster. It lists:
- Kam Chatman at 6'7", 210
- DJ Wilson at 6'9", 210
- Ricky Doyle at 6'10", 250
- Aubery Dawkins at 6'6", 190
- and MAAR at 6'4", 200.
Doyle's weight is a positive. Michigan's going to need him to bang, and he's now the heaviest guy available—Donnal added ten pounds but only got to 240. Meanwhile, uncertainty about Max Bielfeldt's status for next year is all but gone: they've ceased listing him as a redshirt junior and now have him as a senior.
Fireworks nyet. I'll have a column type thing about this tomorrow, but to recap the most important completely trivial news of the week: the Michigan regents shot down the athletic departments proposed fireworks for the Miami (NTM) and Penn State games despite separating the votes. Mark Bernstein's criticism was the most pointed:
“We are not Comerica Park, Disney World or a circus ... ” Bernstein said. “I love Michigan football for what it is ... and for what it is not. It remains and should be an experience, a place that resists the excesses of our culture; intentionally simple.
“The fireworks should be on the field, not above it.”
I probably wouldn't have gone with "resists the excesses of our culture" but the overall sentiment is one I can get behind. Mostly I just want Michigan to be like itself, to maintain a separation from other options. Not because those are necessarily worse*, but because a bright line between Them and Us is inherently valuable when you're trying to gin up some fake-ass tribalism.
This is the most fundamental divide between myself and Dave Brandon: he wants to copy the Best In Class Leaders because that's the only thing he's ever been able to do. He could no more start a business than I could be athletic director, because every attempt would be Chipotle 2 or Also Applebees or Pretty Much Still Ponderosa. His one strategy for success is to do the thing that everyone else is doing.
Anyway. The new president is being carefully neutral about the whole situation…
“Personally, I didn’t have an opinion,” Dr. Mark Schlissel, who started his job this week, said Friday during a press conference with the media. “Having never attended a game there, I didn’t have a sense of the cultural aspects of it. The band marching out, I’ve never seen. I’ve never seen them at a halftime show. I don’t have context to really say whether fireworks matter or not. I didn’t really feel like I had a valid opinion.”
…but the message sent by the regents is clear. This is an organization that has just been sued because they decide things in private meetings and show up to vote things in unanimously. During the 116 votes previous to the fireworks there were eight instances of a regent voting no. Brandon just exceeded that in a single day.
The opportunity here was to provide a vote of no confidence without shooting something down that's actually important, like the budget. I mentioned that I thought a number of people towards the top were discontent but unlikely to do anything about it in the most recent mailbag; I must have underestimated the disdain.
Is this the beginning of the end? I'm not getting my hopes up just yet.
*[They are of course sometimes worse.]
Back on the market. Onetime Michigan target and temporary SMU commit Matt McQuaid, a shooting guard out of Texas, has reopened his recruitment.
For a second there it looked like McQuaid was very serious about Michigan, so I wouldn't be surprised to see the two parties reconnect. Everyone seems like a backup plan for Jalen Coleman at the moment, but if Coleman does do the weird thing and pick a Notre Dame program that hasn't really gotten off the ground under Mike Brey, Michigan wants to make sure they've got options. McQuaid is a pretty good one:
McQuaid is arguably the best shooter in the class of 2015 -- and he strengthened his case last week at the LeBron James Skills Academy, when he shot lights-out from 3-point range against the best high school players in the country. There were at least two games in Las Vegas where I didn't see McQuaid miss an outside shot. He can make shots from deep and is also capable of knocking down contested shots.
He's 6'5", so visions of Stauskas are dancing in various heads right now.
Old stuff. Wolverine Historian takes on 1986 Iowa:
Straight shooter. I may disagree with a lot of what Bob Bowlsby thinks but I can appreciate that he's not Bill Hancock:
"Enforcement is broken," he said. "The infractions committee hasn't had [an FBS] hearing in almost a year, and I think it's not an understatement to say cheating pays presently. If you seek to conspire to certainly bend the rules, you can do it successfully and probably not get caught in most occasions."
He probably thinks it's possible to fix that, and that's where we differ. I do wish someone in attendance at Big 12 media days had heard this…
"It is hard to justify paying student-athletes in football and men's basketball and not recognizing the significant effort that swimmers and wrestlers and lacrosse players and track athletes all put in," he said. "Football and basketball players don't work any harder than anybody else; they just happen to have the blessing of an adoring public who is willing to pay for the tickets and willing to buy the products on television that come with the high visibility."
…and asked Bowlsby how much harder he was working than the assembled press corps.
Etc.: Scouting Tyus Battle, Jalen Coleman, and Prince Ali at the Peach Jam. The Game will not be at night, because frostbite. CJ Lee looks back at his time at Michigan after taking an assistant spot at Marist. A preview of the band programs this year. I'm not enthralled with the idea of trying the sing-along thing again. Peppers and Funchess feature amongst the most watchable players this year.
I like lists of sports memories that include bad stuff, because bad stuff happens. So props to the Daily Gopher for including Mike Legg (and Holy Cross) on their list of Gopher hockey moments.
Would Michigan alum Justin Meram have been farther along in his development if he'd found a way to skip college entirely? Probably.
NCAA soccer coaches are proposing a radical restructuring of the way their sport works:
Top college soccer coaches are finalizing plans and canvassing support for changes that would extend the men’s season over the full academic year.
The proposals recommend a 25-game season split between the fall and spring semesters. Individual conference championships would be held early in May with the showpiece NCAA College Cup following in early June.
Proponents of the switch point to two significant benefits for student athletes – improved conditions to aid their development as players, and a lighter fall timetable allowing for greater participation in other facets of university life.
The motivation here is to exist at some point that makes sense—last year's championship game was played on December 15th. Champion Notre Dame played 27 games in a 4 month stretch. There were a ton of midweek games that were problematic for kids trying to go to class. Then as soon as the season was over ND coaches were limited to two hours of ball-work with their players for the rest of the year.
Those restrictions look ludicrous in the context of the global soccer development process, where the years from 18 to 22 are absolutely critical. A ton of players are getting first team playing time in fully professional environments by then, training year-round. Increasingly, top players are skipping college entirely in favor of youth contracts overseas. But there's only so many of those and only so many Generation Adidas contracts to go around. The middle tier is still in school, but for briefer periods.
If NCAA soccer is going to remain relevant at all it'll have to adapt, and there is an obvious success story they could seek to replicate: hockey. Both hockey and soccer are developing players in competition with development strategies (mostly) outside the country in a sport that you can break into the major leagues at 18, or even earlier. (Baseball is somewhat similar, but the nature of the game means you play older and there's no "we do it better" foreign option.) Hockey has one nemesis; soccer has a thousand.
Hockey competes directly with the CHL, and large parts of what make it weird in the context of the NCAA are seemingly because of it. Hockey has by far the longest playing season of any NCAA sport, which allows extensive coaching from October to April. Most others are crammed into a single semester—or one semester and a small part of another—even if that makes zero sense. Hi, February baseball.
Hockey also takes a number of older student athletes; it is common for middling teams to have guys who arrived in college as 20 year olds. While these guys are usually not NHL prospects themselves, they provide a challenge for the guys who are. The long season with plenty of skill work and challenging environment leads to a situation where NCAA players are actually better-equipped to enter the pro ranks than their competition. Don Cherry's mad about it, even.
college hockey is even producing Canadian Olympians like undrafted(!) Chris Kunitz
This system hasn't made the NCAA the #1 choice for first-round picks, who generally don't care to play school. It has created an environment where 30% of the NHL comes from college—an all-time record—and the generally college-oriented USA hockey program is a major contender. And it hasn't impacted success in school at all: hockey's academic progress rate of 971 is way above baseball, basketball, football… and soccer.
The NCAA has responded to the resounding success of the hockey model by occasionally trying to strangle it. Every few years there's chatter about, and the odd proposal to, reduce the length of the season. Hockey often has to scramble to carve out exceptions to NCAA legislation that makes no sense for them. It ends up being tough for hockey to pass things that make sense for their specific contact, like the ability to officially contact players before the CHL drafts them. That was on the table; it got shot down despite having the support of everyone in the hockey community.
Hockey started off long and snuck an extra week here and there to get to its current state. They've reached a compromise between professional development and degree acquirement only because the NCAA didn't notice they were doing the former.
This is a reasonable and well-considered plan to improve college soccer’s ability to compete for talent and remain a valuable, even unique part of the American soccer development structure. It also has virtually zero chance of ever being enacted.
That's John Infante, former compliance officer and expert on the arcanity of the NCAA. The reason? The NCAA desires to knit some more of the emperor's new clothes.
…the last items on any agenda is adding games, in-season time, and hours to any sport’s schedule. Instead, it is more likely that all sports see in-season hours cut, voluntary workouts restricted, and significant student-athlete discretionary time added. College sports seems prepared to move rapidly away from an environment where soccer could even experiment with being a year-round sport, especially where the breaks are timed so that the best players can use them to go play more soccer.
In an effort to keep everything "amateur," the NCAA is willing to toss away proposals that promise to create something newly useful, and may even go so far as to further sabotage an already wonky development model. The idea that developing a player to go pro in something other than "something other than sports" is a problem. Even if there is a clear analogue that has succeeded as both a developer of talent and an NCAA sport.
Maybe autonomy can do something about it. At some point everyone and their network is going to look at the cavernous gulf in their programming that stretches from April to August and try to fill it with baseball, soccer, or both. Maybe lacrosse. Anything that looks like a potential spectator sport in the summer is going to appeal to the people with money, and since they're on the verge of running things for real instead of just mostly for real, you could see a compromise.
But as long as the NCAA is trying to pretend they're something they no longer are, sense will not be made.
In case you missed it last week, our longtime fantasy sports partner Draftstreet has merged with/under Draft Kings. If you've played or tried the old, it's time to try the new. Also we offered a deal for people who deposit $5 or more to get a free digital edition of our annual book, Hail to the Victors, like right away.
Larry stressed to me this morning that he wants to know how strongly he and his team are on board with Draft Kings, and that it's important for you guys especially to get acquainted with DK and feel cool bugging him (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Today they're running another promo for MGoReaders—buy-in's just $2.00 or free if it's your first deposit—with the winners getting a shot at the big $400,000 mid-summer classic tomorrow (winner of that gets $100,000).
- $2 entry fee or free if you're a first-timer on Draft Kings
- Top places receives free entry into the $400,000 mid summer classic, which is on Tuesday (7/22). The winner of the mid summer classic wins $100,000!
- This link will update every day for that days games.
- Salary Cap Style. $50,000 to select 10 baseball players.
- First time depositors at DraftKings receive a 100% bonus up to $600
- Deposit $5 or more and you get a free digital (unlocked PDF) version of Hail to the Victors 2014.
- Larry will collect the email addresses on the accounts that qualify and send them to me.
- Look out for an email from me, [my name] @ [this site], with a link to download your digital edition, or if you prefer at that time I can email you the file (10 mb) directly.
The goal of Draftageddon is to draft a TEAM of Big Ten players that seems generally more impressive than that of your competitors. Along the way, we'll learn a lot of alarming things, like maybe Maryland is good? Full details are in the first post.
PREVIOUSLY ON DRAFTAGEDDON
- Everyone not grabbing dual-threat senior QBs grabs defensive linemen
- Seth takes Venric Mark in front of just about everyone
- Nothing terribly remarkable happens
- BISB takes all the guys I want
- A ridiculous amount of time is spent discussing the merits of one particular interior lineman from Rutgers
- WILDCARD TIME as Brian takes a quarterback despite already having a quarterback.
- Peppers drafted in WILDCARD TIME II.
- Someone drafts an Illinois defender! I know!
- BISB goes Maryland crazy, reminds us all that he has Kurtis Drummond eighty-five times.
ROUND 21 - PICK 2 (Ace): Darian Hicks, CB, Michigan State
O: QB Connor Cook (MSU), RB Ameer Abdullah (NE), WR Devin Funchess (U-M), WR Levern Jacobs (MD), SLOT Dontre Wilson (OSU), TE Maxx Williams (MN), LT Brandon Scherff (IA), LG Kaleb Johnson (RU), C Chad Lindsay (OSU), RT Tyler Marz (WI)
D: WDE Shilique Calhoun (MSU), SDE Andre Monroe (MD), NT Darius Kilgo (MD), DT Adolphus Washington (OSU), OLB Chi Chi Ariguzo (NW), OLB Matt Robinson (MD), CB Desmond King (IA), CB Darian Hicks (MSU), S John Lowdermilk (IA), S Jarrod Wilson (U-M), HSP Earnest Thomas III (IL)
ST: KR/PR Ameer Adbullah (NE)
Wears 2 and eats roses; must be Woodson [james brosher]
Ace: We're reaching the point in the draft when it's time to start gambling a bit; with this pick, I'm betting my imaginary cash money on Pat Narduzzi, the East Lansing Cornerback Factory, and Darian Hicks winning the starting job across from Trae Waynes.
The first two things don't seem like much of a gamble at all. The third may not be, either. Hicks saw some action as a true freshman last season, started and ended the spring as the starting field corner despite dealing with injury, was the first corner selected after Waynes in their spring game draft, and had their 247 outlet putting him under the secondary's "reasons for optimism" category—which somehow didn't just read "NARDUZZI"—after the spring ($):
Hicks, meanwhile, passed a host of players to see action as a true freshman last season and held on to his No. 1 spot at cornerback throughout spring ball. We don’t know what this secondary will look like without Jim Thorpe Award winner Darqueze Dennard, but at least we know who will take his place entering fall camp.
With Dennard and Waynes locking down the corner spots last year, no other corner did much that wasn't on special teams, so I went back to Hicks' high school film to see how he'd fit into MSU's aggressive defense. Considering he could do this as a high school junior, I think things will work out:
Hicks earned his MSU offer over a year before NSD 2013; the Spartans identified him early as a guy they really wanted in a class that had room for just one cornerback. His scholarship offer came directly from Mark Dantonio. Pat Narduzzi was his primary recruiter. That's good enough for me.
BISB: /Starts to snark Ace's selection of a guy who has played like 50 career snaps.
/Remembers, like, everything
[after the jump: somebody goes totally bonkers for Badgers, and not who you think!]
|Southfield, MI – 6'4", 245|
4*, #104 overall
#12 DE, #4 MI
3*, NR overall
#22 WDE, #7 MI
4*, #121 overall
#13 DE, #4 MI
4*, #221 overall
#11 WDE, #4 MI
|Other Suitors||OSU, MSU, Neb, Oklahoma, Tenn, Florida|
|YMRMFSPA||Taco Charlton/Frank Clark|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post.|
Via Maize and Blue News, single-game highlights of Marshall vs Farmington:
Despite twice fulfilling a lifelong dream to play for a prestigious football program, Lawrence Marshall had a rough, rough year. His father died from complications from diabetes; his grandfather followed a couple months later with heart issues. A few days after that, Marshall was on the field for Southfield, eye-black stickers under his eyes reading RIP.
Marshall soldiered on, and so will we. But, you know, keep it in mind.
About that "twice" bit in the previous paragraph: Marshall had one of the weirder recruitments in this class, as he leapt at an Ohio State offer on an early visit. That turned out to be a rather impulsive decision that he retracted a couple days after it happened; after opening up his recruitment he visited various places and eventually re-pulled the trigger in favor of Michigan, but not before picking up a number of impressive out-of-region offers, as listed above.
Those offers came because Marshall provides a physical package that promises an explosive edge rusher once he can fill out his frame. He'd already fielded Michigan and Michigan State offers by early in his junior year, when he was a relatively spindly 6'4", 205, because he can get in the backfield:
Marshall still has a lean frame, but he does not have issues with strength at the point of attack. He does a great job creating upfield momentum, which all starts with his explosive first step. Marshall comes off the line hard and low, and puts an exclamation point on his sacks by being a heavy hitter.
… an explosive weak-side defensive end that can really get after the quarterback. He has a quick first step and can close very well. Marshall shows great snap awareness, allowing him to get a jump on the opposing offensive tackle.
Marshall did not quite pull a Bryan Mone (MEEEEAAAAAAT), but he's filled out his frame relatively quickly. By the end of his senior season of high school he was 225; he told Mike Spath he was 240 at the Offense-Defense Bowl, the world's worst-named all star event; he's listed at 245 on Michigan's tentative roster. This process has apparently not damaged his quickness one bit. Marshall on Marshall:
"I didn't miss a step. Everything that I had before, I still had, but then my punches got stronger. I could feel myself beating the offensive linemen with better moves, with more power. And I think I actually got faster too because I added some explosion at the snap."
As the blockquotes below indicate, that is a consensus view.
Athleticism is Marshall's calling card, with everything else trailing behind. Trieu makes the case for:
Very long frame. Has great athleticism, change of direction and speed in pursuit. Has all of the tools to be an elite pass rusher, just needs continued work on his technique. …Has to add some weight, but all of the raw tools are there.
While the rankings above are nearly identical to Bryan Mone's—three sites around the 100 mark and Rivals shrugging—in this case Rivals has made its case thanks to the local reporters. Sullivan seemingly carpooled with Marshall to his games this year, and pointed out that while he's got upside he has trouble getting off blocks:
If his speed rush on the edge doesn't find home (and it only did on a couple occasions in this game), his counter moves are limited. … Most of Marshall's flaws are technique-related, and have little to do with his athletic ability (as is expected with someone in just his second year of varsity ball). In addition to limited use of his hands to fight off the blocker - which he did improve over the course of the game - he stands straight up on the snap too often, which is telegraphed by his stance.
Josh Helmholdt took in the Cass-Southfield opener:
He is best when he can line up outside at a seven- or nine-technique and use his speed to run by offensive tackles. He did that for a first-half sack and was tracking ball carriers to the other side of the field with his speed. Marshall has trouble releasing from offensive linemen once they get their hands on him. He shows flashes of explosive, athletic playmaking ability, but he needs to develop consistency to be an every-down defensive end at the college level.
That criticism was echoed by 247 after Lorenz attended the opener:
…still has difficulty disengaging blocks at points, but was very impressive physically and did not look even the slightest bit slower after putting on about 30 pounds since this time last season. He never quits on a play, and made a couple backside pursuit tackles that may have prevented Cass Tech touchdowns. He looked great.
Great is in the eye of the beholder, as always. As an athlete with potential develop, he looked great. As a technician, not so much. FWIW, ESPN's evaluation is surprisingly muted for a guy they have just outside their top 100, heavy on "flashes" and "can"; with a prospect like Marshall who adds a bunch of weight and improves a lot ESPN's fire and forget ratings and evals are ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
The good news in that department is that Marshall's senior year saw him develop quite a bit as a footbaw player. Allen Trieu:
…more of a potential guy as a junior but he really put it together as a senior. He turned a great final season. He added weight and strength and now looks like a kid who could come in and contribute early. He's active and plays with a great motor. He still has to work on his technique, but all the physical tools are there and he improved by leaps and bounds from what was an already good junior year.
247 took another look at him towards the end of 2013, nothing that he's "already shown great improvement" and is "bigger, faster, stronger, and nastier":
… shows an even quicker first step and has improved his pass rush moves and technique. Marshall looks more comfortable in his stance and has a larger repertoire of moves. He has an elite swim move to get past the offensive tackle and can close on the quarterback in a flash. … Marshall has significant untapped potential and is an ascending talent whose best football is ahead of him.
You get a cookie if you can predict the next sentence. 247 lists pad level as an area to improve. They also mention that he "shows" violent hands but only erratically.
Meanwhile, Sullivan was impressed with his consistent improvement:
He defeated a couple blockers on the edge, and was much more disciplined in keeping contain than he was early in this season. His strength was overwhelming for Lathrup's right tackle, and is one area of his game that he has been developing as well. When he hits, the opponent is sure to feel it, and he had one particularly violent tackle along the sideline early in the game.
By late in the season he was suggesting that he was "likely" to get the fourth star over-eager message boarders had been badgering him about for six months despite the fact that he has no hand in the rankings; this was a departure from his previous stance that Marshall was ranked where he deserved to be and is probably more meaningful than the fact that he did not actually get that star.
By the time the O/D Bowl came around, Marshall was actually drafted to play DT(!) because of his increased size and power, and it was not a disaster.
Marshall looked comfortable and capable of taking on double teams by the center and guard, over powering them or standing his ground on nearly every rep. When it came time to showcase his athleticism, Marshall again didn't disappoint, able to blow by some of the stiff guards looking to slow him down and get directly to the running back in the back field.
The competition level there is a considerable step down from the UA and Army games, for what it's worth.
Etc.: His troll job is a little less awesome after the events of last year, but A for effort.
Why Taco Charlton? Both WDEs with NFL potential who were dogged by assertions that they were not any good at football as juniors who had breakout senior years. Those breakout years still found a number of skeptics about how far away from that hypothetical ceiling they were, and not without cause. Ranked in approximately the same fashion as well.
I know this isn't a comparison that really tells you much since Charlton has not established who he is as a player, so Frank Clark is another option. Clark came in a safety-sized DE and took a long time to turn his athleticism into enough DE-type footbaw knowledge.
Guru Reliability: High. Well-scouted, healthy player. Variance in rankings actually a reasonable reflection of his status as something of a boom-or-bust player.
Variance: High-minus. Still needs some weight and still needs a lot of technique work. If that 245 is accurate, though, he's put a lot of size concerns to bed. He'd already be five pounds away from where Ojemudia is without the benefit of a college S&C program.
Ceiling: High-minus. Doesn't have crazy blow-you-away athleticism or size, but he is probably an A- in those categories.
General Excitement Level: High-minus. Wish he was further along but the quick improvement suggests he's coachable and will get towards his ceiling. Unless, of course, he does not.
Projection: With a number of other WDE types on the roster and a couple linebackers who could put their hand down in pass rush situations, you'd hope Marshall could redshirt. He's probably going to be good, he didn't enroll early, he could use the extra time to get to 260-270, he's raw, and there's a high probability he's not going to be an early NFL entry. If they were still in the under I'd say it's highly probable.
They are not, though, and Taco Charlton has moved over to SDE for at least one year. That leaves Michigan two deep at WDE, a situation which has seen this coaching staff play freshmen consistently. So he'll be in the running for the WHY wasted redshirt of the year as he runs behind Clark and Ojemudia.
Marshall could see serious time as early as next year, depending on if the over sticks. If they go back to being a primarily under team, Charlton probably moves back and he's going to have to fight through a couple guys. If they stick with the over he'll at least be a platoon type with Ojemudia and will have an excellent chance at starting since Ojemudia seems near his physical ceiling and Marshall's got another 20 pounds to add.
[Ed (Seth) note: Brian's off today. but Jane Coaston (twitter: @cjane87) has finally written something for this site. Jane is an incredible writer (and an entertaining follow) who spends most of her day making the world better, and probably would have saved it by now if she wasn't so obsessed with college sports]:
He looked so small.
I was looking at Trey Burke in a Utah Jazz uniform at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., and all I could think is, “He looks so damn small.”
When you leave college, you find that the world is big. The world is bigger than Ann Arbor or Michigan or the Big Ten or sports could ever be. It is bigger than Crisler, or this school, or that school, or any school. When you leave college, you have left the biggest little place you will ever be.
You will find that the world is full of a thousand stupid paper cuts. It is full of unspeakable evils, yes, but it is also full of HR managers and disappointing movies and nonexistent reminders for the things you were supposed to do two days ago. You are in debt to someone, probably. You should have cleaned out the back of your fridge in June. Your boss visibly loathes you. And your parents are suddenly old and you don’t remember how that happened. They weren’t old, and now they are, and they will now never not be old again.
Your sophomore year roommate who yelled at you once when you got drunk and threw up in a trash can will get married. The kid who you were convinced would never exist outside of the Brown Jug is now an investment banker in New York; he’s engaged now, too. Much of these changes seem to take place in spurts of activity on Facebook, but sometimes you run into someone you used to know and they’re still them, but a different them. Sometimes they’re so different that you don’t quite know what to say.
Charles Woodson is different now. Tom Brady is different now. Every Michigan player you have ever loved or hated or some bizarre yet totally understandable combination of the two is completely different from the way they were when they played in maize and blue. Trey Burke is different now. He’s playing in the Summer League before his second year in the NBA. He’s 21. He makes $2.4 million dollars a year. And he was roughly 25 feet away from me, playing in front of 13,911 fans on a Wednesday night.
“Are y’all here for Trey Burke? I see all this Michigan stuff and I’m trying to put it together.”
The guy in front of us - who turned out to be a West Virginia grad and friends with Patrick Beilein - turned around to ask us why we were wearing Michigan sweatshirts at a Wizards game. So did the two men next to us, who told us that Michigan-Louisville was the best title game they’d ever seen, and that the upcoming tournament should be a good one. “Good to see y’all representing your university,” one of the men said.
And we weren’t alone. When Trey Burke’s name was announced during warm-ups, at least six people in the area immediately yelled out, “Go Blue!” There were Michigan shirts in every section, Michigan sweatshirts, Michigan basketball jerseys. We had somehow turned an NBA regular season game into the Trey Burke and some other guys and Gortat! Show. This same Wizards team would later go on a mildly improbable playoff run, but on that night in March, we were there for Trey.
Trey Burke is different now, but he’s still Trey Burke. He still got the Steal. He still hit the Shot. The sands of time will turn to glass and the mountains will be made low and Trey Burke will still have put a Michigan team that had barely sniffed the Sweet Sixteen (or hell, the NCAA tournament) for over a decade into the championship game on a run that made me glad I chose to go to devote much of my sanity to the University of Michigan athletics department. I didn’t go to a Wizards game. I went to go see Trey Burke, Michigan player.
Desmond Howard hasn’t worn the winged helmet in 22 years but he will always be diving in the end zone on fourth down for a touchdown. Charles Woodson will be running back a punt on a cold day in November and beating Ohio State with a rose between his teeth for the rest of his life. Denard Robinson will always throw a floating pass to Roy Roundtree, who will fight through pass interference to catch it, and it will always be a touchdown, and we will always win. Maybe it’s strange to hold onto the projections of people like that, but we do it anyway.
Things change, and it’s terrifying. Our offensive line is literally one giant question mark. Michigan’s athletic department makes decisions that make me uncomfortable. I am not doing what I want to be doing with my life and I spend a lot of time trying to not think about that.
But Trey still beat Kansas.